San Benito Lifestyle

Prayer in the park expands to include Ukraine

Hollister street ministry aims to create unity locally as well as worldwide.

Raul Escareno has visited Valley View Park in Hollister early each Saturday morning for two months to lead a prayer in the park. The March 5 gathering included prayers for Ukraine.

A member of The Pentecostal Church in Hollister (TPC), Escareno said the prayers were nondenominational and open to anyone who wants to pray for the people and leaders of their city, for the people of Ukraine, or for people in need of prayer themselves.

He quoted 1 Corinthians 1:10 as the guiding scripture to his approach with no divisions.

“That’s the foundation of this prayer, that everyone be united, no hating on anybody,” Escareno said.

“It’s not about what church you go to, it’s about people coming together to pray for one another and God honors that,” Noel Ugale said, who is also a member of TPC. She said she was moved to help after seeing Escareno’s initial park prayers, a form of street ministry she considered important because she understood not everyone goes to church.

“God is not contained within four walls,” Escareno said. 

The two were joined by four others who attended the 9 a.m. prayer in cold and sprinkly weather.

Escareno said after dealing with personal problems and seeing the power of prayer, he felt a joy from God as well as a calling to help his community.

“He turned an alcoholic into a sober man, so how much more power do I need to see,” Escareno said. “Why be selfish and hold that in when I can spread that out?”

Escareno is the owner of Mangia Italian Restaurant and also plans to open Baler Bar in downtown Hollister. 

Goals of the community prayer include asking for divine guidance for leaders everywhere.

“The power of prayer is indescribable,” Escareno said. “We don’t have to be in Ukraine to have a prayer for Ukraine. We can be here and God moves his hand over there.”

In addition to praying for the happenings across the world, Escareno also said his love for Hollister causes him to ask for Hollister to be led in the right direction.

“Our city’s going to grow, it’s inevitable,” Escareno said. “I just want them to make wise decisions on how we grow. With more growth there’s more crime, and with more crime there’s more hatred.”

Escareno said while his first two months of park prayers have been small, he plans to reach more people in their neighborhoods.

“We will eventually go to different parks, like the walls of Jericho,” Escareno said. “We’re going to go around the whole city and cover our city with the love.”

Ugale recommended those considering coming to a park prayer to stop by. 

“Try it, and if you don’t like it, don’t come back,” Ugale said. “What do you have to lose?”

Escareno said street ministry efforts have the support of TPC Pastor Nathan Hurst.


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Sean Roney

Sean is a writer and photographer from California’s Central Coast. He began reporting for BenitoLink in 2015. Sean received his BA in communication from CSU Monterey Bay and he has covered news stories in San Benito, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Clara counties. He enjoys traveling California to meet interesting people as well as visit breathtaking places, and is always happy to sit down and share stories. In his free time, Sean enjoys cycling, bikepacking, and novel writing.